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Landmine casualties increased sharply worldwide last year: monitor

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WASHINGTON: The number of casualties from landmines and similar explosive devices soared to a 10-year-high last year as armed conflicts raged across the world, a report found Tuesday.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) blamed the sharp increase on wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, but also noted that a greater availability of casualty data had pushed numbers higher.

According to this year’s Landmine Monitor, an annual report by the ICBL, the number of people killed and wounded by mines, improvised devices and “explosive remnants of war” rose to 6,461 in 2015.

The total, which included at least 1,672 fatalities, marked a 75 per cent increase from casualty numbers in 2014.

“The decade-high number of new casualties caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance, and the continued suffering of civilians, more than a third of whom were children, proves again that these indiscriminate weapons should never be used by anyone,” Loren Persi, casualties and victim assistance editor of Landmine Monitor, said in a statement.

Afghanistan recorded the highest number of casualties in 2015, with 1,310 people killed or wounded – though that number was similar to 2014.

Libya saw 1,004 victims, while Yemen recorded 988 casualties, Syria saw 864 and Ukraine’s total was 589.

However, the report noted, the use of antipersonnel mines by nation states remains extremely rare thanks to a ban signed by most countries.

The only government forces planting landmines last year were Myanmar, North Korea and Syria, none of which have signed the Mine Ban Treaty first agreed in 1999.

Non-state armed groups in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and Nigeria planted explosive devices, the Monitor said.

Despite the increase in casualties, ICBL said funding for mine action dropped.

In 2015, 35 donors contributed $340 million in international support for mine action to 41 states and three other areas – a drop of almost $77 million from the year before, the campaign group said.

“At a time when casualties are increasing, it is worrying to find decreasing international and national support to clear mine-contaminated land and assist landmine victims,” Jeff Abramson, an editor of Landmine Monitor 2016, said in a statement.

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